Winter storms are the third most costly natural disaster in the U.S., behind hurricanes and tornadoes. In the last 20 years, wintry weather has caused more than $1 billion a year on average in insured losses, with 22 percent of all claims on homeowners policies. That means that 1 in 5 insurance claims are for cold weather damage.
From burst pipes to collapsed roofs to car wrecks on slippery roads, winter packs a powerful punch. Ice and snow can also be destructive in ways we don’t expect. Before the deep freeze occurs, be prepared for winter-related damage that could lead to a homeowners insurance claim.
Let’s take a look at ways the elements can damage your home or car in winter, and what to do about them:
- Ice dams: When ice forms along the edges of your roof, the snowmelt running off from up above gets stuck behind it and continues to freeze and thaw. The water, backing up, has nowhere to go but under your shingles, especially if you have loose ones, and into your home, causing water damage to walls, floors, and insulation. To help prevent ice dams, make sure gutters and drainage spouts are clear of leaves and debris. Carefully remove snow accumulation with a roof rake before it has a chance to melt and refreeze as this is how ice dams form. Only use your roof rake while standing on the ground. If you can’t reach your roof from the ground or you see damage occurring up there or in your home, call in a professional.
- Snow and ice accumulation: The weight of the snow and ice on your roof after a heavy snow or accumulating snows can cause a roof to collapse, whether it’s on a home, a garage or a shed. Snow becomes heavier the longer it sits on your roof as it melts and refreezes and may need to be removed by a professional. Ice storms are particularly dangerous for roofs. The weight of one inch of ice equals one foot of snow. The weight of snow and ice doesn’t just affect roofs, however. It can also cause tree branches and even entire trees to fall, potentially onto your home, fence or other property. To minimize potential damage, remove dead or dying trees and keep your trees properly trimmed throughout the year.
- Melting snow and ice: Once temperatures start to warm up again, accumulated snow and ice will begin to melt. Keep your gutters and downspouts clear to help prevent water from entering your home and make sure the area surrounding your residence has a gentle grade, sloping downward away from your foundation to help water move away from your home and not pool. Having a sump pump in the basement is a good backup solution in case water does get in, and so is removing snow accumulation that is sitting against your house’s foundation.
- Frozen pipes: To help pipes from freezing in winter, insulate your pipes as fully as possible. Keep the furnace on and set no lower than 60 degree, even when you are away. When temperatures really start to drop, keep your cabinet doors open in the kitchen and bathrooms to let warm air reach the pipes. You may even want to keep your faucets running at a slight trickle if temperature dip below freezing. Make sure you turn off the water to all outside spigots, if possible, and leave them open so that any condensation doesn’t build up and freeze inside the pipe.
- Watch out for potholes: Potholes don’t make headlines the way blizzards do, but they can wreak havoc on your car after the ice and snow melt. Hitting potholes can damage wheel rims and tires, wear out the shocks or struts, and, if you’re travelling fast enough, even bend the suspension and damage the steering alignment. You can file an auto insurance claim if you have collision insurance, but it might not be worth it. A study found that the average damage from potholes ranged from $300 to $700.
- Don’t drive if you don’t need to. Listen to weather reports and information about road conditions and respect the advice given. The last thing you want to do is end up stuck on the side of the road in a snowstorm. If you must drive, allow extra time to get to your destination. Roads can be unpredictable during the winter months and can become slick at a moment’s notice as temperatures fall. Patches of water that turn into ice overnight, or “black ice”, is responsible for numerous accidents every year. Drive slowly and cautiously, especially at night and leave extra distance between vehicles. Stay off the roads during storms so that you don’t create additional problems for yourself, the police, and emergency vehicles.
Taking measures to help protect your home and car from winter weather means taking measures to help keep your entire family safe and warm. So, keep an eye on things as the temperature drops and the snow falls.
The insurance professionals at Foundation Insurance Group, located in St Matthews, Kentucky and servicing the entire Louisville metro area, are always happy to review your current auto and homeowners policies and answer any questions you might have. Contact us today.